Breaker Morant - Classic Film Pick
Bruce Beresford's exceptional turn-of-the-century wartime drama is a thought-provoking examination of British-led military events that occurred during the Boer War (1899-1902) in South Africa.
The story follows the fate of three court-martialed Australian soldiers fighting for the British Empire against a Dutch community of South Africans known as Boers. British forces occupy most of the Boer territory. In order to defeat the Boers' efficient guerrilla tactics, the British form an elite brigade known as the Bushveldt Carbineers. The troop is made up largely of Australian soldiers like lieutenants Harry "Breaker" Morant (Edward Woodward), Peter Handcock (Bryan Brown), and George Witton (Lewis Fitz-Garfield), the three men standing trial.
Nicknamed "Breaker" for his horse-breaking skills, lieutenant Morant is an experienced soldier and a keen poet. The murder and mutilation of his troop's beloved Captain Hunt by Boer fighters sends Morant into a fitful rage. Under orders from Britain's Lord Kitchener, that Boer soldiers be killed by firing squad rather than taken prisoner, Morant orders the firing-squad killing of a Boer guerrilla caught wearing the khaki uniform of his deceased captain. The order makes up the court's primary accusation, along with an allegation concerning the murder of a German priest. Beresford's elegant use of long-shot compositions provide scale for the untamed landscape of the region. The quaint stone fort prison and courthouse serves as an arid stage for the mangled legal proceedings that give way to haunting flashback sequences. Major J.F. Thomas (Jack Thompson) is the inexperienced attorney assigned on short notice to defend the three men accused whose position as scapegoats for the British Army becomes increasingly clear. British military chiefs use the trial as a public relations ploy toward ending their military occupation. Pressure from German forces threatening to aid the Boer community is a concern. "This is what comes of empire-building." "Breaker Morant" is an anti-war film that takes no prisoners.
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